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Congrats to Wade Plafcan, M.S. in EECB!

A hearty (if slightly belated) congratulations to Wade for completing his M.S. in Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation Biology during the summer of 2022.

Wearing backpacks, Tom and Wade smile for a selfie with an alpine ridge and sweeping landscape in the background.
Tom and Wade taking a break from surveys at 11,000 feet near Mt. Washington in Great Basin National Park. Photo: Tom Albright

Wade's thesis research focused on tracking recent and modeling future changes in the distribution of four alpine herbaceous plants that are mostly found only in Great Basin National Park in Easter Nevada. This is a priority for the National Park Service (which funded the project) because, as stewards of only foothold these plants have to continued persistence, they want to understand how climatic changes and recreational pressure may be endangering them.

Working with collaborators from the NPS, the UNR Museum of Natural History, and a botanist who happens to be the namesake of one of the species (Nachlinger catchfly), we conducted several weeks' worth of surveying and resurveying over a two-year period. Using these data, knowledge of the species' biology, a variety of climate, soils, and other geographic data, and statistical analysis techniques, Wade was able to show that most of the species were being pushed up to higher elevations and some could see a drastic reduction in habitat as the century progresses.

If you'd like to learn more, the work was written up in a recent edition of a National Park Service publication, The Midden and we are working to publish the findings in a peer-reviewed scientific journal.

ocal species in clockwise order from top left: Nachlinger catchfly (a barely-emerging yellow flower), Holmgren’s buckwheat (bright pink flowers), Pennel beardtongue (purple flowers), and Nevada primrose (violet-colored flowers). All closeups shown in rocky alpine terrain. Image credit: Wade Plafcan
Focal species in clockwise order from top left: Nachlinger catchfly, Holmgren’s buckwheat, Pennel beardtongue, and Nevada primrose. Photo: Wade Plafcan.

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